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Over the last few years my fascination with muscle cars has grown, along with my interest in newer cars and technology, especially hybrids and alternative fuels. When this odd pairing first entered my mind, I just passively thought that I'm just interested in all areas of cars, which is true, but after dwelling on it more I figured out there is more to this. I have always been a big history buff, and classic cars are a piece of history. Going to a classic car show is like walking through a museum, only the cars are actually driven and taken care of by people who care about their cars and history. I have written why the classic car era was so short lived due to many factors, with the last issue being the OPEC oil embargo in the early 1970's. I believe this is where the heart of my fascination with muscle cars begins.
As a brief history lesson, the term muscle cars is generally used to describe the mid sized automobiles produced between 1965 and 1973 with large V8 engines. These cars were designed for mid sized engines, but the manufacturers squeezed in large V8 engines as options, and the then newly driving age baby boomers bought these cars like crazy. Examples of muscle cars would be the Pontiac GTO, Plymouth Road Runner, and the Dodge Super Bee. Soon after the muscle car craze started, auto insurance companies quickly realized the potent combination of seriously fast cars and young drivers, and premiums on muscle cars sky rocketed. This was the first of three factors that doomed the muscle car.
The two other factors that ended the muscle car era tie into the "green revolution" that I am also interested in. In 1971 new emission standards were put into place, which required the use of unleaded fuel only. For the engines to run on unleaded fuel, the engines had to be detuned, causing the compression ratios to be lowered, which in turn means less horsepower. The final problem muscle cars ran into was the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 which caused a severe fuel crisis, with many gas stations having no gas, and the ones that did had long lines and fighting at the pumps. By this point Detroit could not sell a muscle car, and the era was over.
Maybe it's the styling that I dislike in many later 1970's and 1980 car models, but I think part of the problem also is that I believe the oil embargo should have woke up America and Detroit into producing cars getting better miles per gallon. Of course the technology of hybrids and batteries was not yet there, and in the late 1970's and early 1980's mpg did increase somewhat, but it then nosedived in the early 1980's. Oil became cheap and the cafe standards were removed, and the SUV craze emerged.
My belief is that the muscle car era should have been the last of the large gas guzzling automobiles. We started to clean our air with emission standards, and the oil embargo was a wake up call that America was dependent on a foreign commodity, not in our control. That's what makes the muscle car era so historical and interesting to me. You don't have to be a "tree hugger" or such to realize that oil is a limited resource, and is a pollutant. You don't have to believe in global warming, but if you live in any large city you know the affect of automobile exhaust in the air you breathe. There are conflicting reports stating that we could be at peak oil now, and resources will become harder to get, and others believe we could be decades or more away from running out. It doesn't matter, it is still "limited" and no one truly knows. Engine technology has come a long way in the last 30 years. With overhead cams and other technology, we can squeeze more than 300 horsepower out of a stock 6 cylinder engine. I find that pretty amazing, and I think that we need to keep working on squeezing more out of less.
About the Author
Daniel Fehn is a web designer, a huge classic car and truck fan, and a wannabe mechanic currently living in Minneapolis, MN. I designed and built timelessrides.com so I could share my enthusiasm for classic vehicles, and created the classified ads section for all to buy and sell their rides for FREE.
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